1st & Goal: 2021 Week 4 in Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

September 20, 2021

With every varsity team getting at most nine regular-season games, every week of the high school football season has the potential to shift landscapes locally and sometimes statewide.

MI Student AidWeek 4 saw its share of movement with league races taking some early shape and playoff talk already beginning as programs work to get a read on how their early work fits into the now fully-implemented “enhanced strength-of-schedule” system.

We’ll discuss that more as we preview our Week 5 top matchups – below take a look at many of the results from this weekend that have the state talking as we approach the midway point.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Grand Blanc 43, Davison 7 The Bobcats broke free after three single-score wins over strong opponents with a victory that may prove the most memorable of all this regular season, as they ended Davison’s four-game winning streak in this rivalry. Grand Blanc (4-0) joined the Cardinals in the Saginaw Valley League Red in 2018 and had lost the last three league meetings against them by an average of 36 points per defeat. Davison (1-3), last season’s Division 1 runner-up, also has played one of the state’s toughest opening slates. Click for more from the Flint Journal.

Watch list Freeland 43, Essexville Garber 14 The Dukes’ defense has been a strong point the last two seasons and first three games of this one as they’d given up 22 points total during a 3-0 start. But Freeland’s offense after four games – and four wins – is more than halfway to equaling last season’s scoring across 11 games.

Remember this one Ubly 50, Harbor Beach 33 The Pirates (2-2) had won five of the last six in this series including twice during the playoffs and 16-14 to open the 2020 regular season. But Ubly (4-0) broke 50 points for the second straight week and is one of two teams sitting atop the Greater Thumb Conference East.

More shoutouts Millington 21, Standish-Sterling 8 The Cardinals (4-0) handed Standish-Sterling (3-1) its first defeat and can become the only undefeated team left in Tri-Valley Conference West I play when they take on Carrollton this week. Montrose 35, Chesaning 0 The Rams (3-1) are a one-point loss from a perfect start and ended Chesaning’s with their second shutout of the season.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Warren De La Salle Collegiate 21, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 16 The reigning Division 2 runner-up Pilots (3-0) scored all of their points during a mid-first half surge and held the Warriors’ offense scoreless during the second (two points came on a safety) to take an important first step in the Detroit Catholic League Central race. Brother Rice (3-1) hadn’t given up a point since the season opener and had defeated De La Salle the last two seasons. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.

Watch list Macomb Dakota 27, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 23 With this one of the state’s best rivalries, and both coming off close Week 3 wins, this shouldn’t have been entirely stunning. But with the Big Reds 3-0 coming in, it still could represent a nice turning point for the Cougars (2-2) – and a possible reset on the Macomb Area Conference Red race with undefeated Romeo having defeated Dakota and seeing Chippewa Valley next.

Remember this one Armada 24, Richmond 10 Four teams have won at least one Blue Water Area Conference championship over the last five seasons, and Armada (4-0) is making a strong bid to be the fifth in six years after adding a nice win over the annually-contending Blue Devils (3-1) to their six-point victory over reigning league champ North Branch in Week 3.

More shoutouts Oak Park 30, North Farmington 24 The Knights’ first four opponents are a combined 14-2, and Oak Park (1-3) fell twice by five or fewer points during the first two weeks before getting on the better side of a close one in handing North Farmington (3-1) its first defeat. South Lyon 31, Detroit Country Day 7 The Lions are 4-0 to start for the third time in four seasons and after scoring the most points reigning Division 4 champion Country Day has given up since it also appeared in the 2019 Division 4 title game.


HEADLINER Haslett 21, Mason 8 After opening with an eight-point loss to Jackson, Haslett (3-1) has won three straight – eclipsing its win totals of the last two seasons – to pull into first place alone in the Capital Area Activities Conference Red. The Vikings led 21-0 into the fourth quarter and all but stopped an offense that was averaging 35 points per game entering the weekend. Reigning league champ Mason (2-2) had opened the league schedule in Week 3 with a win over Williamston and joined the Hornets among four teams now a game back in the standings. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal

Watch list Mount Pleasant 33, Midland Dow 10 The Oilers (4-0) had opened with three wins over opponents with a combined one victory now through Week 4, but beating Dow (2-2) solidly reinforced Mount Pleasant’s playoff-point status as the top-ranked team in Division 3.

Remember this one East Lansing 20, Portage Central 15 Mason Woods’ 63-yard touchdown catch from Brevin Jackson with 2:21 to play helped the Trojans (2-2) get back to .500 after a start against opponents a combined 11-5 so far.

More shoutouts Beal City 48, Lake City 8 The Aggies (3-1) are a one-point Week 1 loss from a perfect start and will play Evart this week with the Highland Conference title potentially on the line after shutting down the Trojans (3-1). Stockbridge 68, Pontiac 40 Jeremy Pilch scored nine touchdowns – tying for fourth-most in MHSAA history – and a total of 64 points, which is tied for third-most in that category.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Traverse City Central 42, Traverse City West 14 The Trojans extended their winning streak against the rival Titans to three and moved into first place alone in a Big North Conference that features four of six teams at 3-1 overall – including both Central and West. The Trojans ran out to a quick lead this time and then ran away during a second-half surge. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Watch list Big Rapids 25, Central Montcalm 21 After opening with a loss to Coopersville, Big Rapids has won three straight to tie for the early lead in the Central State Activities Association Gold – while handing Central Montcalm (3-1) its lone defeat.

Remember this one Mancelona 66, Johannesburg-Lewiston 42 While the Cardinals (0-4) are admittedly off to a rare slow start, Mancelona (4-0) brought a high-scoring end to a seven-game losing streak against them.

More shoutouts Gaylord 10, Petoskey 7 The Blue Devils (2-2) avenged last season’s 22-14 loss, in the process handing the Northmen (3-1) their lone defeat. Frankfort 22, Oscoda 14 Playing a rare back-to-back series, the Panthers (3-1) finished a two-week sweep of the Owls (1-2), this one ending a bit closer than the Week 3 32-16 win.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Addison 36, Michigan Center 35 These Cascades Conference contenders never separated from each other by more than seven points, with Addison adding the winning score with 3:12 to play. While the Panthers (4-0) gave up as many points as they had over their first three games, they did hold Michigan Center (3-1) to a season low while scoring the first points the Cardinals had given up this fall. Addison’s Week 8 opponent is the only other team that has yet to lose a Cascades game. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Watch list Union City 26, Reading 20 (OT) The Chargers (2-2) bounced right back from a Week 3 loss to Jonesville, handing Reading (3-1) only its second Big 8 Conference loss over the last five seasons.

Remember this one Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 21, Milan 15 The Big Reds (3-1) had won three straight of St. Mary (although the two Huron League rivals didn’t play each other last season). But the Falcons ended that streak and put themselves in position to take a commanding advantage in the league title race this week against reigning champ Riverview.

More shoutouts Ida 26, Clinton 20 The Bluestreaks (3-1) are in position to contend for the Lenawee County Athletic Association title after edging the reigning Division 6 runner-up and with early league co-leader Hudson next up. Ann Arbor Huron 31, Temperance Bedford 30 The River Rats (3-1) equaled last season’s win total and set themselves up for their best finish in more than a decade by holding off a late Bedford comeback attempt.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Portage Northern 35, Stevensville Lakeshore 28 Coming off a 2020 District Final run, Portage Northern (1-3)  didn’t find its footing early this fall against three opponents who have made some early noise in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference. But the Huskies may have turned the corner in a big way handing Lakeshore (3-1) its first loss – while also running their winning streak over the Lancers to four as well. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Watch list Lawton 52, Allegan 7 The Blue Devils (4-0)  gave up their first points of the season and continued their streak of breaking 50 points every game this fall.

Remember this one Battle Creek Lakeview 31, Battle Creek Central 18 The Spartans (3-1) extended their winning streak in this rivalry series to three, bouncing back from a Week 3 loss to River Rouge to keep pace tied atop the SMAC.

More shoutouts Parchment 50, Saugatuck 43 Since opening with a loss to Lawton the Panthers (3-1) have equaled last season’s win total, with their next victory guaranteeing their best record since 2017. Plainwell 33, Richland Gull Lake 14 Much of the attention in the Wolverine Conference is being paid to powerful Edwardsburg, but Plainwell (4-0) will roll into this week’s matchup with the Eddies with its best start since 2013.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Houghton 21, Bark River-Harris 20 The Gremlins (3-1) are on a roll since falling to Ishpeming Westwood in their season opener, with this win giving them one more than either last season or 2019. Similar to last season, this came down to the final minutes – a year ago Houghton won 3-0 on a fourth-quarter field goal, and this time the go-ahead points against the Broncos (3-1) came on late touchdown catch. Click for more from the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.

Watch list Marquette 55, Kingsford 34 Halfway through the Greater Northern Conference schedule, Marquette (3-1) has two 50-point scoring performances and two double-digit wins – this one handing Kingsford (3-1) its first loss.

Remember this one Gladstone 30, Escanaba 15 The Braves (2-2) came back from a one-point loss to Menominee in Week 3 to defeat Escanaba (1-3) for the first time since 2010.

More shoutouts Sault Ste. Marie 49, Cheboygan 21 The Blue Devils (3-1) rebounded from their first loss with their highest points total of the season. Ishpeming Westwood 42, Ishpeming 0 The Patriots (3-1) posted a second-straight shutout of the rival Hematites (1-2), also in bouncing back from a Week 3 defeat.

West Michigan

HEADLINER Montague 33, Muskegon Oakridge 7 The Wildcats have outscored their three West Michigan Conference opponents by a combined 103-7 and have themselves in position to repeat as league champions with a second-straight big win over the rival Eagles (3-1). Two of Montague’s final three league foes are also 3-1 overall, but the Wildcats have at least a game on both in the league standings. Click for more from FOX 17.

Watch list Muskegon Heights Academy 34, Manistee 28 The Tigers didn’t play last season and before that had lost 21 of their last 22. But they’re off to a 4-0 start and have guaranteed their best finish since at least 2011.

Remember this one Rockford 53, Grandville 46 (2OT) Pay little attention to Grandville’s 1-3 record – the Bulldogs have played two of the three early frontrunners in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red. This matchup is almost always memorable, and Rockford (4-0) made it six wins over their last eight meetings including three of those decided by one score.

More shoutouts Muskegon Mona Shores 47, Zeeland West 12 Over the last two weeks Muskegon High and then Mona Shores (3-1) have whittled the O-K Green race down a bit with back-to-back wins over West (1-2), and the Sailors get another contender in Zeeland East next. Byron Center 28, East Grand Rapids 20 The Bulldogs (4-0) avenged last season’s 12-8 Week 9 loss to the Pioneers (1-3) that cost them an outright O-K White championship.


HEADLINER Bridgman 45, Mendon 0 The Bees (4-0) are now 19-2 since moving to 8-player in 2019, but this might be their most notable win since making the switch. Mendon (3-1) had entered averaging 63 points per game, but Bridgman earned its second-straight shutout of the fall while seeing its scoring average fall to only 53 points per contest. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.

Watch list Morrice 59, Lawrence 6 The Orioles (4-0) appear to be building toward another special season now having scored at least 58 points in every game and giving up no more than six in any of them – and the Tigers (3-1) had scored 60+ the previous two weeks. Circle Morrice’s Week 9 matchup with Deckerville as potentially the biggest 8-player game of the regular season.

Remember this one Marion 44, Mesick 29 If Marion (4-0) eventually wins the West Michigan D League title, this could be the decider as it sent 2019 champion Mesick into second place and one game back. (No league title was awarded in 2020.)

More shoutouts Adrian Lenawee Christian 56, Athens 0 The Cougars moved to 15-0 since moving to 8-player last season, this time handing Athens (3-1) its lone defeat. Eau Claire 30, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 26 The Beavers (2-2) have set themselves up to make a run at their best record in at least seven years, especially notable coming back from a stretch that saw them win only two games total from 2015-19.

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PHOTO: A swarm of Grand Blanc defenders bring a Davison ball carrier to the ground Friday. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)

Inspired by Dad's Memory, Lawrence's Vasquez Emerges After Family Losses

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

January 16, 2024

LAWRENCE — While COVID-19 affected many students in different ways, it definitely made an impact on Austin Vasquez.

Southwest CorridorAs a freshman at Lawrence High School during the pandemic, Vasquez lost his grandmother Theresa Phillips to cancer on March 25, 2021.

Two days later, on March 27, his father Tom Vasquez, died of complications from COVID. And on April 19 that spring, his grandfather Darrell “Gene” Phillips also lost his fight against the coronavirus.

“There is no way (to cope). You just have to keep on moving,” Austin said. “It’s what (my dad) would want me to do.

“He was my biggest (influence) in sports. He talked to me about never giving up – leave everything you’ve got.”

That is just what Vasquez is doing in the midst of his three-sport senior year.

He is the top wrestler at the school, competing at 175 pounds with a goal of making the MHSAA Tournament. He was a versatile contributor on the football field this past fall, and he’s planning to join the baseball team this spring.

Vasquez works on gaining the advantage in a match against Mendon. He’s 8-3 with six pins on the mat this winter after a busy summer of camps and tournaments. Those experiences helped lessen the nerves he’d felt during matches previously, and now he’s wrestling with an outlook of “everything to gain and nothing to lose.”

And Vasquez said he feels his dad’s presence as he prepares for competition.

“Before every match, before every game, I just think about what my dad would be telling me,” he said. “Everything he’s always told me has taught me to get better. 

“In life, I still remember everything he taught me. He was definitely a great man, and I want to be like him someday.”

Wrestling also has made Vasquez more in tune with his health.

His sophomore season he went from 230 pounds to 215, and by his junior year was down to his current 175.

“I just wanted to be healthier, not just for wrestling,” he said. “I started going to the gym every night, watched my calories, and from there grew (taller).

“Now I’m at 6-(foot-)2, and I don’t know how that happened,” he laughed.

Lawrence coach Henry Payne said Vasquez always has a positive attitude and helps the other wrestlers in the program.

“When he notices a kid next to him doing a move wrong, he’ll go over and show him the right way,” Payne said. “We have a lot of young kids that this is their first year, and he’s been a good coach’s helper.”

The coach’s helper gig will continue after graduation.

"Next year we’re hoping to open up a youth program here, and I got him and an alumni that graduated last year and is helping the varsity team this year (Conner Tangeman) to take over the youth program for us,” Payne said.

 From left: Lawrence wrestling coach Henry Payne, athletic director John Guillean and football and baseball coach Derek Gribler. On the football team, Vasquez was a jack of all trades.

“He started at guard, went to tight end, went to our wingback, went to our running back. He was trying to get the quarterback spot,” football coach Derek Gribler laughed.

Vasquez said there is no other feeling like being on the field, especially during home games.

“Wrestling is my main sport, but I’d do anything to go back and play football again,” he said. “I just love it.”

Although the football team struggled through a 1-8 season, “It was still a really fun season,” Vasquez said. “Everybody was super close. Most of us never really talked before, but we instantly became like a family.”

Vasquez had the support of his mother, Heather, and four older sisters: Makaylah, Briahna, Ahlexis and Maryah. He also found his school family helped him get through the end of his freshman year.

“(My friends) were always there for me when everything was going on,” he said. “I took that last month off school because it was too hard to be around people at that time.

"Every single one of them reached out and said, ‘Hey, I know you’re going through a rough time.’ It really helped to hear that and get out of the house.”

Vasquez also was a standout on the football field. The family connection between Vasquez and Lawrence athletic director John Guillean goes back to the senior’s youth.

“I was girls basketball coach, so I coached his sisters,” Guillean said. “I remember him when he was pretty young. I knew the family pretty well. I knew his dad. He was pretty supportive and was there for everything.”

Vasquez said that freshman year experience has made him appreciate every day, and he gives the following advice: “Every time you’re wrestling, it could be your last time on the mat or last time on the field. Treat every game and every match as if it’s going to be your last. If you’re committed to the sport, take every chance you have to help your team be successful.”

Gribler has known Vasquez since he was in seventh grade and, as also the school’s varsity baseball coach, will work with Vasquez one more time with the senior planning to add baseball as his spring sport.

“When we talk about Tiger Pride, Austin’s a kid that you can put his face right on the logo. His work ethic is just unbelievable,” Gribler said. “Everything he does is with a smile. He could be having the worst day of his life, and he’d still have a smile on his face. He pushes through. It’s tough to do and amazing to see.”

The coach – who also starred at Lawrence as an athlete – noted the small community’s ability to rally around Vasquez and his family. Lawrence has about 150 students in the high school.

“It goes beyond sports,” Gribler said. “Austin knows when he needs something he can always reach out and we’ll have his back, we’ll have his family’s back. It’s not so much about winning as it is about the kids.”

Vasquez is already looking ahead to life after high school. He attends morning courses at Van Buren Tech, studying welding, and returns to the high school for afternoon classes. 

“I’d like to either work on the pipeline as a pipeline welder or be a lineman,” he said, adding, “possibly college. I would like to wrestle in college, but let’s see how this year goes.

“I’m ready to get out, but it’s going to be hard to leave this all behind.”

Pam ShebestPam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Lawrence senior Andrew Vasquez, right, wrestles against Hartford this season. (2) Vasquez works on gaining the advantage in a match against Mendon. (3) From left: Lawrence wrestling coach Henry Payne, athletic director John Guillean and football and baseball coach Derek Gribler. (4) Vasquez also was a standout on the football field. (Wrestling and football photos courtesy of the Lawrence athletic department. Headshots by Pam Shebest.)